Former Figure Skating Champions Get Creative to Keep Sport Alive for Kids
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — When it comes to youth sports during a global pandemic, improvisation and adaptation have become two of the most important skills to have.
Specifically in Southern California, home to some of the harshest COVID-related restrictions, youth sports programs and coaches have had to get creative to keep their athletes going.
For figure skaters, not being able to practice on the ice has been a challenge.
"They're facing challenges for sure," said Aidas Rekyls, a former national champion skater turned coach. "They want to go on the ice and practice, and suddenly you can’t go on the ice. It’s restricted. You have to wear a mask, and it’s harder to breathe. But you're going around and doing what you need to do."
For him, that's meant partnering with former Olympian Slava Zagorodnyuk to find creative solutions for young skaters throughout the region.
In addition to keeping skaters moving outdoors — in parks and on fields — they've held classes and seminars via Zoom. The pair has even taken it a step further by hosting their own exhibitions to allow skaters to showcase their skills.
With many competitions and other outside exhibitions canceled over the last year, they worried many would quit the sport entirely.
“All the season lost, no competitions, everything is canceled, and they probably would quit," Reklys said. "That would be a sad story."
"But kids after the events would be smiling and super excited," added Zagorodnyuk. "That's what we were trying to do little by little, is continue to organize more figure skaters here in the U.S."
The exhibitions presented by Power Twist were a huge success, giving kids the chance to get back on the ice safely and reignite their love for the sport.
"It’s been very comforting," said Sebastian Alexis, one of Rekyls' students. "It’s really helped everyone. I think doing off ice was also a good opportunity for me to improve and keep my skills on track."
The pandemic may have put their sport on thin ice, but for the two old pros, it also gave them a chance to work harder and inspired a determination to make it work despite the challenges.